ESRA CONGRESS 2017

Shakespeare and the call to freedom

Conveners: Dympna Callaghan (Syracuse University), Ewan Fernie (The Shakespeare Institute), Margaret Tudeau-Clayton (Université de Neuchâtel)

We suggest that Shakespearean freedom takes more diverse forms than has yet been realised and that it is more positively ‘political’ in a broader sense than that word usually comprehends. Bringing presentist and historicist perspectives together, we propose that Shakespeare’s call to freedom addresses audiences today as well as in the past. Each of our three papers seeks to show how a specific historical inflection of Shakespearean freedom can make Shakespeare more relevant and important now.  As a group, our papers will show how Shakespeare’s call to freedom at once draws from and affects aesthetics, religion, ethics and gender. Callaghan’s paper demonstrates that freedom of speech in Shakespeare is at once paradoxically enabled by the technical constraints of verse drama and progressively associated with the feminine. Tudeau-Clayton recovers the emancipatory force of the biblical parable most referred to by Shakespeare as this is evoked in two of his early comedies. Fernie recalls the nineteenth-century freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth’s passionately direct acknowledgement of Shakespeare’s call to freedom, as a way of arguing for a more engaged form of Shakespeare criticism in our time.